Van Gaal: I have no complaints with Di Maria

The Argentine turned in a poor performance against Sunderland at the weekend and was substituted at half-time, but his manager insists he is adapting to life at Old Trafford

Louis van Gaal has spoken out in defence of Angel Di Maria, insisting the Manchester United attacker is on the road to adapting to the Premier League.

The Argentine was substituted at half-time against Sunderland on Saturday after a below-par display, with the Red Devils going on to win the match 2-0 in his absence thanks to a double from Wayne Rooney.

Van Gaal, though, believes it was just an off-day for the former Real Madrid star and is confident he will start to show his quality, beginning against Newcastle on Wednesday evening.

“Every player can have that kind of match – Di Maria is not the only player who has suffered a bad day,” the Dutchman told MUTV.

“He can be the best player in the world in the next match, so I think everything is going well. He trained very well and I don’t think there is any problem.

“I have already explained that the higher rhythm of the Premier League is one of the most important aspects but he also has to adapt to a new culture, a new environment and that is not always easy.

“I think it counts for all the players that we have bought, the first season is always difficult. I have explained that in the press conference after the match and can see it in every player we have got. Shaw, Blind, Herrera, Falcao and also Di Maria.

“For me it is not a big surprise, it is more a big surprise when he adapts as quickly as possible. And also in the Netherlands or in Spain or in Germany I had the same experience with players, so we have to give him time, what I have already said, not only to Di Maria but all the players. We wait and see.”

Di Maria’s home was burgled earlier in the season and, according to reports, he subsequently moved into a hotel along with his wife and children.

Van Gaal, though, has played down the possibility that the break-in is still affecting the Argentine.

“It is easy to say that. I cannot prove that,” he added. “It is not scientifically proven, and I don’t want to speak about things that I cannot say.”

But Van Gaal admits he can do little to improve Di Maria’s performances, revealing that form is “dependant on the individual”, but he expects the former Real Madrid winger to have fully adjusted to England’s top-flight after 12 months.
“You have to manage so many aspects, and not only aspects of the game, of the match, but also of the culture in the country. You cannot give a general answer to that but the general answer is one year.

Dybala: I would swim to Barcelona to join them

The gifted attacker has attracted interest from clubs across the continent, but he seems to have set his sights on a move to Camp Nou

Palermo attacker Paulo Dybala has admitted that it would be a dream come true if Barcelona made an attempt to sign him.

The 21-year-old has been in sublime form in 2014-15, netting 12 goals in 24 Serie A appearances and creating seven more.

His impressive performances have not gone unnoticed elsewhere and clubs such as Manchester United, City, Juventus, Napoli, Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona have all been credited with an interest in signing Dybala.

However, the Argentine has suggested he would prefer a move to La Liga over a transfer to the Premier League, Bundesliga or another Serie A side.

“Would I be open to a move to Barcelona? I would swim to Barcelona if they came knocking,” Dybala told Radio Belgrano when questioned about his future.

“I wouldn’t even have to change into my swimming gear. After all, I would only have to cross the Mediterranean Sea…”

Dybala has a contract with his current club until June 2016.

Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini recently stressed that the Sicilians will only part company with the young attacker if an offer in the region of €40 million comes in.

Newcastle United – Manchester United Preview: Mata ready for crucial month

The Spaniard is hoping for a win at St James’ Park to kickstart a run of tough fixtures for Louis van Gaal’s side, whose performances remain largely unconvincing

Manchester United playmaker Juan Mata is hoping he can create more good memories at St James’ Park when they visit Newcastle United on Wednesday.

Louis van Gaal’s men travel to Tyneside sitting fourth in the Premier League following a 2-0 win over 10-man Sunderland at the weekend.

However, the Old Trafford club’s performances have remained largely unconvincing and will need to improve during what Mata – who netted twice in a 4-0 win at Newcastle last season – labels a crucial month in their quest for Champions League football.

“We will need to give everything in the next games to get our goals; for a start…against Newcastle in the Premier League, and next Monday against Arsenal in the FA Cup,” Mata wrote on his official blog.

“We will also play Tottenham and Liverpool in March, so it’s not an exaggeration to describe this month as one of the most demanding ones this season.

“We remain in the Champions League spots, but you just need to have a look at the table to realise how close this race is going to be until the end of the season.

“We are ready for that, although all we think about is trying to win all the games left. Starting this coming Wednesday in St James’ Park, a stadium that brings back some good memories because I scored several goals there.”

Mata has started just two of United’s seven away games since the turn of the year, but he could be back in Van Gaal’s thoughts after missing out at the weekend, with the Dutchman continuing to alter selections and formations frequently.

Van Gaal has no fresh injury concerns, with Robin van Persie (ankle) the only man definitely ruled out.

Newcastle laboured to Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Aston Villa on home soil and John Carver has demanded a more incisive display up front against the 20-time champions.

He said after the Villa win: “I was brave going with two wingers and two strikers – there are not many head coaches or managers in the Premier League go that way, but I did it because I felt it was important to get the three points.

“We talked about getting the ball in the wide areas and putting the ball in the box because it’s no good Papiss [Cisse] being the lone striker and trying to play into his feet.

“But what was disappointing was that in the first half, we didn’t put the ball in the box enough, and it just shows you, the ratio: you put it in the box and he will score a goal for you, and thankfully he did.”

Jack Colback serves out the remainder of his two-match ban in this game, while winger Jonas Gutierrez is back in contention after featuring on the bench against Villa for the first time since recovering from cancer.

'Di Maria was sold by Real Madrid for being too ugly'

The sale of the Argentina star came as a shock in the summer following arguably his best season for Real Madrid, as James Rodriguez was bought to replace him

Angel Di Maria was sold by Real Madrid because he was “too ugly” for the club, claims Barcelona’s assistant director of football, Carles Rexach.

After helping Madrid win the Champions League last year, the Argentina international joined Manchester United for a British-record fee of €81.8 million but has struggled to find form under Louis van Gaal this season.

And Rexach believes that Madrid’s concerns over their brand and image was the main reason behind Di Maria’s departure.

“Florentino Perez [Madrid's president] looks at the world market and wants a team of Galacticos for everyone to admire. Do you understand what I mean?” Rexach told Regio7.

“[Cristiano] Ronaldo is the flagship of the club. Perez is selling an international brand.

“Vicente del Bosque and Di Maria are too ugly for Real Madrid. They are different from Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.”

Rooney: Brown red card must be rescinded

Radamel Falcao was fouled by John O’Shea during Manchester United’s 2-0 win, only for referee Roger East to dismiss his Sunderland team-mate

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has called for Sunderland defender Wes Brown to have his controversial red card in Saturday’s Premier League contest overturned.

Rooney scored both goals as United defeated Gus Poyet’s men 2-0 at Old Trafford, but post-match discussion centred on referee Roger East’s baffling decision to show Brown a red card.

United opened the scoring from the penalty spot when Radamel Falcao was brought to ground in the area after seemingly being tripped by Brown’s team-mate John O’Shea.

East dismissed Brown and a statement from referees’ governing body Professional Games Match Officials Limited later claimed that it was not a case of mistaken identity.

But Rooney, who played with Brown and O’Shea at United, believes the official did make an error.

“I don’t think it was Wes - it looked like O’Shea so the referee has got it wrong and I’m sure they will look at that and rescind Wes’ red card,” he told Sky Sports.

Rooney’s goals were the first he has scored in 2015, the captain starting in a more familiar striking role after a lengthy spell in midfield.

Yet despite flourishing further forward, the England skipper insists he is happy to play anywhere for the team.

“I have done that throughout the years whether I’ve worn the armband or not. That’s something I have always done,” he added. ”I have played in midfield before I have played out wide before. At times you have to see what is best for the team.

“That is what the manager and I have felt and that’s why I have been back in midfield. I love playing football and wherever the manager wants me to play I will play.”